More Pork, Doleouts, Bonuses in 2013 Budget
By Cong. Raymond V. Palatino
Initial review of the 2013 budget based on the DBM presentation
The Noynoy Aquino government is calling the P2.006 trillion proposed budget an ‘empowerment budget’ that will benefit the people, especially the poor. But since the budget (based on the Department of Budget and Management presentation) is loaded with more pork, doleouts, and fat bonuses, it’s more appropriate to call it an ‘election budget’ that will benefit Aquino’s politician friends, especially candidates of the Liberal Party.
The Department of Education, as expected, received the biggest share in the budget among all government agencies. The agency’s P292.7 billion allocation, however, is way below the P334 billion proposed budget that is required for the successful implementation of the K-12 program in the next schoolyear. The budget timetable was presented by DepEd to the House of Representatives during a public hearing last month. Where will DepEd source the funding gap in meeting the basic requirements for the next phase of the K-12 program?
The presentation also mentioned that DepEd will continue to hire ‘volunteer teachers’ for the Kindergarten program. Not teachers, but volunteer teachers. DepEd, it seems, will remain the nation’s biggest employer of contractuals.
The Department of Public Works and Highways received the second biggest allocation in the government budget after DepEd. Curiously, the DPWH was listed as the government’s Principal Infrastructure Agency. On the surface, there’s nothing sinister in this categorization. The immediate implication is that departments with infrastructure projects will have to transfer these items to DPWH. But the timing of the move is suspect since election campaigning is just a few months away. Did the government centralize the infrastructure projects to make it more convenient for dirty politicians to receive kickbacks from overpriced and anomalous infrastructure projects? Instead of talking to various line agencies, politicians will now only deal with DPWH. One agency for the spoils. One stop shop for corruption deals.
Anyway, after two years of underspending on infrastructure, the Aquino government has finally decided to pour more funds for hard projects. This is understandable since the ruling LP is desperate to dominate the polls next year and an effective vote-getter is to improve the government’s ‘concrete’ achievements. Expect more visible and highly publicized tourism roads, bridges, and flood control projects in the next few months. Interestingly, the funding for DPWH ‘road upgrading project’ was raised from P15 billion to P26 billion in the 2013 budget. Not new roads, but simply upgrading of roads. Indeed, elections always bring out the innovatiness of our leaders.
If the poor are unimpressed with pork projects, the government will try to win their support (read: votes) with more Conditional Cash Transfer funds. Instead of directly investing in social service programs, the government has decided to expand the CCT doleout by increasing its allocation in the 2013 budget from P39 billion to P44 billion.
Meanwhile, the Pamana peace and development program, which is the other less controversial CCT of the government in remote villages, was given a budget of P5 billion compared to this year’s P1.7 billion budget. That’s almost 300 percent increase in allocation.
If you think ‘empowerment ‘is just a slogan to sugar-coat the budget, think again. There’s actually a P250 million ‘empowerment fund’ embedded in the local development program. The purpose of the program, however, is not clearly explained in the DBM presentation.
The government will reward efficient agencies by allocating P10 billion pesos for performance-based bonuses. Not wrong to give incentives to outstanding civil servants but the funding seems too big which may only benefit top bureaucrats and technocrats instead of ordinary government employees.
The government claims it introduced ‘bottom-up budgeting’ by expanding the role of civil society in drafting the budget. This has been a recurrent self-praise of the DBM yet every year the civil society groups which the DBM had supposedly consulted have been complaining during budget hearings that their inputs have not been thoroughly integrated in the national budget. Sadly, the government is using the presence of some well-meaning civil society groups in the budget consultation and drafting process to hide the essentially anti-poor and anti-development features of the national budget. A democratized budget process is not yet a reality today.